Week 2 in the year of our Lord 2022

Three manly skills, and two simple plans to form another couple

13 minutes to read

We can either learn from the failures of our fathers, and start correcting them, or we can extend those failures into the future and inflict the same or worse on our own sons. You can stay a victim, being all rage and no action—or you can take responsibility for yourself. —It’s Good To Be A Man

This week we got some good news from our publisher, Canon Press. But it’s also kind of bad news:

It’s Good To Be A Man is sold out in hardback until March, but you can get it in paperback now

However, to tide you over, Canon has released a paperback version which available for purchase right now.

Buy online

“I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” —Matthew 10:34

The Christian will be sure to make enemies. It will be one of his objects to make none; but if to do the right, and to believe the true, should cause him to lose every earthly friend, he will count it but a small loss, since his great Friend in heaven will be yet more friendly, and reveal himself to him more graciously than ever. O ye who have taken up his cross, know ye not what your Master said?

“I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother; and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

Christ is the great Peacemaker; but before peace, he brings war. Where the light cometh, the darkness must retire. Where truth is, the lie must flee; or, if it abideth, there must be a stern conflict, for the truth cannot and will not lower its standard, and the lie must be trodden under foot. If you follow Christ, you shall have all the dogs of the world yelping at your heels. If you would live so as to stand the test of the last tribunal, depend upon it the world will not speak well of you. He who has the friendship of the world is an enemy to God; but if you are true and faithful to the Most High, men will resent your unflinching fidelity, since it is a testimony against their iniquities. Fearless of all consequences, you must do the right.

You will need the courage of a lion unhesitatingly to pursue a course which shall turn your best friend into your fiercest foe; but for the love of Jesus you must thus be courageous. For the truth’s sake to hazard reputation and affection, is such a deed that to do it constantly you will need a degree of moral principle which only the Spirit of God can work in you; yet turn not your back like a coward, but play the man. Follow right manfully in your Master’s steps, for he has traversed this rough way before you. Better a brief warfare and eternal rest, than false peace and everlasting torment. —C. H. Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, Evening, December 28

We’ve been pondering on manly skills lately. Here are a couple to take to the bank:

1. The Manly Skill of Not Getting Your Licks In #

Your emotional stability reveals your functional theology.

Vengeful and angry people don’t functionally believe in the final judgement.

It’s still up to them to correct the balances, not God.

Therefore, they are full of rage, rather than full of joy.

Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”

A mature man is in control of his emotions. He has a long wick that burns slowly. It allows him to overlook transgressions and not get bogged down in drama.

An immature man will need to get his licks in. He’ll want to show people up, get the last word, prove himself—so that his audience, which is so often imagined, will see that he can hold his own.

Don’t be that dude.

2. The Manly Skill of Making Good Judgments #

People tend to project their motives onto others. Since our own minds are the only frame of reference we have to ultimately understand other people’s minds, we naturally assume that they are like us. This manifests in the “false-consensus effect”—where we see our own behavioral choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances, and therefore assume that the reason someone else said or did something is the same reason we would say say or do it.

This phenomenon is why people’s assumptions about your motives can provide a window of insight into their own motives. But it works the other way too: we often misconstrue people’s motives because they are not like us.

This can lead us to make truly destructive misjudgments in cases where we are dealing with narcissists, liars, thieves and the like.

How do you fight this? Well, you don’t stop forming gut judgments. That’s nature and good—if those judgments are not fixed.

They must be amendable.

Draw your conclusion, but leave room for other possibilities—and ask a lot of good questions to test your theory. Then adjust your judgment if necessary, as new information arises.

You can also use this as a point of self-reflection. I.e., when have you assumed motives, and turned out to be wrong? Why did you assume wrongly? What should you have done to avoid that?

3. The Manly Skill of Risking Rejection #

Once upon a time, Michael was a professional blackjack player (i.e. card counter).

Card counting isn’t illegal, or even against house rules. But the casinos will kick you out if you’re a disciplined “advantage player.” This is called being backed off, and he has been backed off from more casinos than you could count on the fingers and toes of three men.

Usually, security escorts you off the property.

One time, the security manager walked Michael to the parking lot, and mentioned this was last thing he had to do for his shift.

Michael said, “Don’t go home. Drinks on me.”

He said, “Yeah, why not?”

Much whisky was consumed at a local bar that night. (Not unto drunkenness.)

It was the start of a long friendship. He still gets Christmas emails.

Taking an interest in people is a cheat code in life.

The risk of rejection and awkwardness doesn’t compare to the reward of rich relationships. Put yourself out there.

If by “the Spirit told me,” you mean, “I applied Scriptural truth to a particular situation in consultation with wise counselors to come to a sound decision,” then sure…you could say that the Spirit told you something.

Or, if you received an actual dream or vision, and have enough information to know the interpretation with certainty, then sure…you could say that the Spirit told you something.

But if you mean that you just have a really strong desire or feeling to do something that you think is noble or right…then no. That’s just you.

Your desires play a part in decision-making—but don’t deify them.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a serious sin—even if it is not the kind that Jesus speaks of, for which there is no forgiveness.

Manly skills tend to come when you have simple plans for forming good habits. Here are three simple plans you can follow to cultivate some overlooked manly skills:

1. A simple plan for prayer #

It is important for men to know how to pray, both for their own spiritual growth, and for the growth of those under their care. Here is a simple plan you can follow to make this easier, using the A.C.T.S. mnemonic:

  • Adoration (praising God for who He is)
    • Attributes of God
    • Names of God
  • Confession (confessing my/our sin and need for God’s forgiveness)
    • Sins of commission
    • Sins of omission
  • Thanksgiving (thanking God for what He has done)
    • Work of salvation
    • Works of creation
    • Gifts and blessings
  • Supplication (asking God for His help)
    • Personal
    • Familial
    • Congregational
    • Local community
    • National

It’s just a simple guide. Add or change whatever you like. It works for us. Find something that works for you.

2. A simple plan for family devotions #

  • Pick a set time 3–7 days a week. Michael does 8:30 am Mon–Fri; Bnonn does 10 am Mon–Sat.
  • Sing a hymn. Bnonn has one person pick a hymn each day; 6 people, 6 days. His family mostly uses Kaleb Brasee’s hymn accompaniments; it’s not perfect, but it works, so it gets done.
  • Pray. Again, Bnonn has one person per day pray. It gets too much if everyone prays every time. Bnonn starts, and then the other person finishes.
  • Read a passage of Scripture aloud. If you have smaller children, books heavy with narrative are recommended. Try to continue from the day before so the larger arc starts to appear.
  • Ask a few questions about the reading. “What stuck out to you in the passage?” “What happens first?” “Why do you think X happened?” “Why does Y mean?” “What does Z remind you of from somewhere else in Scripture?”

Obviously you can adjust the order to suit you, and add or even remove elements. Michael puts prayer after Scripture, and doesn’t do the hymn; Bnonn puts Scripture after prayer, because after the reading his younger kids are allowed to play quietly, and the discussion and teaching becomes a proper homeschooling lesson.

You can also add extra elements to make it more liturgical if that fits your purposes. E.g., Bnonn starts and ends every Scripture reading by saying, “These are God’s words,” and the rest of the family responds with, “A lamp to our feet and a light to our path,” at the beginning, and, “By them we live,” at the end. He does this because he wanted his household to automatically associate the reading of God’s word with wisdom and life. But trying to add too much will bog you down—and risks becoming comical and over-serious.

You should want your typical family worship to take 20 minutes from start to finish. Longer than this and it becomes tedious, and your younger children especially will struggle to maintain focus. When we are in a rush, we skip most of the elements and just read a couple of Proverbs, or a short Psalm, and then pray.

Again, adjust whatever you like—the goal is simply to consistently do something, so whatever actually gets done is infinitely better than an idealized plan that never gets implemented.

A reflection on what we have both seen an experienced in the past (no subtweeting is happening here):

The hardest part about ecclesiastical wars isn’t what they cost you. Although it does hurt. Especially if you are a pastor.

No, it’s the cost to your family. Your kids lose friends. Your wife loses friends. They are plunged into an ocean of awkwardness. Invites dissipate. No calls. No texts. Everything goes silent.

In the twinkling of an eye, friends will blacklist your entire family.

Just because you took a stand, or disagree with some influential leader.

Or just because those influential leaders signal their dislike towards you.

That is often enough for congregants to stop liking posts, stop making calls, and to stop reaching out.

The closest we have ever come to capitulating has been after seeing how standing firm in the truth has destroyed the relationships of our wives and kids, and brought them misery. But in the long run, it would be a greater burden on them to know their husband and father made himself a coward or a compromiser for their sake.

We can’t allow social manipulation to silence or even muffle the truth, nor emasculate us.

Play the long game, fulfill your duties to God, and trust him with the outcome.

May the just and holy Lord remove conflict from our churches!

New content this week: #

Notable: #

  • How Boxing shows the DETERIORATION of American Society - YouTube
  • The Meaning of Modesty - YouTube
  • Aaron Renn has some good ideas on How to Start Creating a Productive Urban Household
  • Doug Wilson continues his excellent series, Letters To A Young Man In Need Of A Wife: Calvinism and Girls.
  • If it sounds like Doug has been reading our book, he has (but we know the causality also goes the other way): Book of the Month/January 2022 | Blog & Mablog
  • [Eric Conn also reviews our book for the Hard Man Podcast.] Spoiler alert: he thinks it’s pretty great.
  • This is the state of New Zealand and NZ Police - YouTube
  • Sojournal has been on fire lately; one of their best is At Least We Aren’t In North Korea. Money quote:

    “Woe to you, [New Zealand] Woe to you, [Australia] For if the mighty works done in you had been done in [North Korea and Saudi Arabia], they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for [North Korea and Saudi Arabia], than for you. 23 And you, [Canada], will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in [Rome], it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of [Rome] than for you.” (see Matthew 11:21-24)

    When Jesus was bringing a harsh rebuke against Capernaum it would have been foolish to say to him, “Well, things aren’t as bad as they were in Sodom”. According to Jesus, they were that bad. Actually, they were worse. Sodom hadn’t seen the wondrous works of Jesus the way Capernaum had. I would suggest that we are in much the same position. In the West, we have been privileged to grow up surrounded by the marvellous testaments of the Lordship of Christ. We have been blessed with a rich inheritance bequeathed to us by our Christian predecessors. Their blood, sweat, and prayers have given us prosperity and freedom like no others in the history of this world. Yet many have no ability to see Christ in all of this.
    State education huh

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Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

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